Food For Thought: Let's Double Local

LET'S DOUBLE LOCAL!

By Margaret Christie and Phil Korman, CISA

Tips for digging in to double the amount of local food in our diets!

TAKE ACTION WITH YOUR FAMILY

• Buy more local food. • Cook more and use the freshest ingredients – grown by local farmers. • Share your love of local food with friends and neighbors. • Eat more seasonally and plan for winter.

TAKE ACTION IN YOUR COMMUNITY

Think about all the roles and "hats" you wear in your daily life such as cook, shopper, volunteer, neighbor, parent, worker and citizen.

YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD • Invite others to your house for a local-foods potluck. • Share gardening tips, tools and harvests with neighbors.

YOUR SCHOOLS • Help your school start a garden and make it a part of the school curriculum. • Advocate for more buying from local farms by the school cafeteria.

YOUR WORKPLACE • Encourage the business to offer payroll deduction for a CSA farm share. • Ask if your health insurance plan could cover part of the cost of a CSA farm share, as it does for a gym membership. • Request more local food in your work cafeteria. • Buy local food for work meetings and events.

YOUR LOCAL ECONOMY • Shop and invest locally, whether it is a food coop or other food-related business that is committed to sourcing locally.

YOUR DEMOCRACY • Educate yourself at BuyLocalFood.org and take action on state and national issues that affect your local farmers. • Ask questions of candidates for public office about how they will help us double the amount of local food in our diets. • Vote!

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) has been working to strengthen farms and engage the community in building the local food economy since 1993. Over the next 20 years, CISA's goal is to double the amount of locally grown food in the diets of Pioneer Valley residents, making local ingredients a full quarter of what we eat in communities across the Valley. A healthy agricultural economy is part of the solution to many national challenges – from shrinking oil reserves and a changing climate to increasing diet-related health problems.

As residents of the Pioneer Valley, we're especially invested in the success of local food businesses right here, but we will also benefit from a healthy regional agricultural economy. By trading with our neighbors in Vermont, Maine, and New York, for example, we can fill gaps, make good use of varied land and climate resources, and feed both urban and rural residents.

What's it take to produce, process, market, distribute, and sell more locally and regionally grown food?

  • DIETARY CHANGES. Eating more local food doesn't require eschewing treats from far away altogether. But we'll increase our self-reliance, and bolster our local economy, if we eat more seasonally. We can feed more people on our land base if we eat less meat.
  • MORE FARMS, AND EXPANDED FARMS. New farmers need support, training, and financing. Most importantly, they need access to affordable land. Farmland protection and affordability strategies are critical and, over time and across New England, some land that is now fallow or forested could be converted to agricultural use.
  • FARM LABOR. Our current cheap food system is underwritten, in part, by underpaid workers. At the same time, many farmers struggle to make a living and to find willing, skilled, and reliable workers.
  • APPROPRIATE FOOD SAFETY REGULATIONS. All food carries risks, but our industrial food system has magnified them. Governmental responses should prioritize real risks and recognize solutions appropriate to the size and types of farm operations prevalent here in New England.
  • INFRASTRUCTURE. Aggregation, distribution, and processing are important for bringing local food to all of the many places where people shop – including schools, hospitals, restaurants, and convenience stores. When these services aren't in place – or were designed to serve global markets instead of the local market – farms and local foods businesses need to replace or work around the current system, often adding inefficiency and expense.
  • BUSINESSES THAT PRIORITIZE LOCAL SOURCING. These businesses can also provide the technical assistance, financing, and enthusiastic customer base they need to make it work.
  • CREATIVE FINANCING. A commitment to local sourcing can add business expenses or require business activities that conventional businesses don't need to take on. Innovative financing strategies can help businesses achieve profitability while meeting these challenges.
  • POLICIES, PROGRAMS, AND BUSINESSES ensuring all residents have access to local food. Expanding access to local food regardless of income or geography will increase the market base for farmers while recognizing everyone's right to good food.
  • AN ENTHUSIASTIC AND COMMITTED PUBLIC. That's you! Consumer demand is the biggest driver of buyer interest in local sourcing and community action can change our current food system. See the sidebar for ideas to implement in your own life.

Here in the Pioneer Valley, farmers and their customers have created a renaissance in our local food economy, one that promises long-term benefits to our health, our environment, and our communities. Food provides us with one route to recapturing our role as creators of our own communities, stewards of our land, and protectors of our family's health and well-being. Each of us may use different tools in our effort to achieve these goals – a trowel, a tractor, a dinner invitation, business plan, or town zoning bylaw. Pick up the tool that fits you the best and get your hands "dirty" to Double Local!

Learn more about CISA's efforts to Double Local at BuyLocalFood.org.

Margaret Christie, Special Projects Director

Margaret served as CISA's executive director from 1997 to 1999, when the Local Hero program was launched, and interim director in 2008. She is instrumental in new project development at CISA and is now focused on infrastructure, financing, and support for food system businesses. Margaret grows food for her family in Whately and holds a master's degree in rural sociology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Philip Korman, Executive Director

Phil has led CISA since 2008 in its mission to strengthen farms and engage the community in building the local food economy. He has over 25 years' experience in management and raising resources at nonprofits. Phil grows only garlic for his family in Florence and holds a master's degree in public health from the University of California at Berkeley.

Some Like it Tart

by Sanford D'Amato

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I was in the third row of the Riverside Theatre in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, watching a 30-foot Elizabeth Taylor, as Cleopatra, sensually skim a juicy broken cherry over her voluptuous lips. From that day, at the tender age of 13, cherries were cemented in my psyche's "happy place."

I was not the only smitten one, as Julius Caesar and Marc Antony were ready to give it all up for one taste. Was it coincidence that many varieties of cherry trees started to populate Rome, then Italy, during Caesar's time? Hmmm.

While growing up and working at my dad's grocery store, cherries were a true harbinger of the season. By the time they arrived in Wisconsin, no matter how cold the spring had been, there was no doubt that summer was here. The store was where I became a pie guy with my first tastes of the individual cherry pies that we sold. They were certainly tasty enough to satisfy me, but right around the time of that movie I walked into a diner near our house. Behind the counter was a deeply burnished, almost sugar-enameled cherry number that caught my gaze. My fork splintered the fragile lattice and I was enveloped in a heady aroma of caramelized butter and sweet-tart cherries. As I took the first bite my eyes glazed over and my arms unconsciously cradled the dish. It was then I realized that all the previous pies were pretenders. This was my first pie.

That primal lust for all things cherry continues to this day. As a fairly new transplant to the Pioneer Valley, living on Main Street in Hatfield, I was thrilled to be at an early summer dinner when a mounded bowl of first-of-the-season local tart cherries floated in, attached to the ample arms of Ben Clark. They were from his Montmorency trees that were flourishing in the Deerfield hills. Last year we went for a day of late July picking in Ben's orchard, Clarkdale, and returned with bulging baskets of blushing Balaton cherries.

What I love about tart cherries – and similarly rhubarb, cranberries and Italian plums – is that I have control over the sweetness level of the final product. Some of the batch we picked are still taking a long soak in a bourbon- and herb-infused bath – proper adornments for Perfect Manhattans at the D'Amato's. But the majority were reduced for an intense cherry preserve that I have been using to fill a semolina crostata, or free-form tart, that was inspired by my wife, Angie's, and my last trip to Rome.

We were at Gino, a small trattoria in the shadows of the Parliament. Upon entering, we ran into an initial façade of Roman arrogance, but it seamlessly transformed into a motherly blanket of comfort when the server realized how much we were enjoying the wares and traditions of the restaurant. By the end of dinner, he was literally spoon-feeding the cherry crostata to Angie, who had miraculously become fluent in Italian. Angie asked why I was smiling but I heard nothing. All I could see were those cherry-stained lips. •

Sanford D'Amato is a James Beard Award–winning chef who teaches cooking classes at Good Stock Farm, his home in Hatfield. He is the former chef/ owner of Sanford Restaurant in Milwaukee, WI, and the author of GOOD STOCK: Life on a Low Simmer, his memoir with recipes. Learn more at GoodStockFarm.com.

Grist From The Mill: Summer 2014

editor_pic2What an honor it is to be sharing this launch issue of Edible Pioneer Valley with you! Our issue, titled "Putting It Together," comes to you at a time when farmers' markets are burgeoning with local produce, roadside farm stands are beckoning as you drive by, and your home garden (whether it's several acres or a pot of basil on a windowsill) rewards you with fresh-picked flavors. Our hope is that you'll take the best of what you find in your community this summer and share it with family and friends.

In these pages, we share our best with you: One local grower tells the story of farmers working together to solve a unique procurement challenge. We discuss what "eat local" means at one of the Valley's leading academic institutions. A jam maker lets us take a peek at her process. Of course, we also have many recipes to share with you – there's something for every cook to try.

editor_pic19On a family trip to Greece in the 1980s. I am second from the right. You'll notice that I'm less than excited about what everyone else is eating.  I lived on french fries that summer. 

I can't say that I'm a lifelong student of the food chain. As a girl I had the good fortune to be exposed to many culinary experiences as my family traveled through Europe and Asia. I didn't develop a full appreciation for those experiences until much later in life! I started to really explore food and cooking in my 20s. After a stint in the corporate world, I dove in head first, working as a personal chef and then becoming the chef and owner of a restaurant alongside my husband.

Now as part of a beloved brand published in over 80 cities across the United States and Canada, I have to stay that I "stand on the shoulders of giants" – dedicated publishers, writers and community leaders who have done so much to promote the importance of eating locally, healthily, and sustainably. I also want to thank Melissa Weinberger and the original Edible Pioneer Valley "pioneers" for the work they started in 2008.

With that, I invite you to relax and reflect. Find someone to break bread (real or metaphorical) with, pull up a chair, and start a conversation.

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Mary Reilly, Publisher